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The Alfallac: a curious history

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Casini Alfallac in 1957 with the model Tutsi Bertrand.

[Editor’s Note: Typically old racecars, used-up and non-competitive for the next season, drift away. One Alfa in Brazil, however, got a second lease on life after its racing career with a unique sports car conversion, as Rogerio Ferraresi wrote in the story of the Alfallac.]

From car racing to converting to sports car and returning to its original features, know the epic of the Alfa Romeo 8C 308 that was champion in Brazil.

An Italian racing car that was converted into a sports model in Brazil. Afterwards, it disappeared, it reappeared in Europe, according to its original characteristics. So it is the Alfa Romeo 8C 308 that belonged to the count Francisco Scarpa, an interesting figure of the history of South America. The industrialist inherited the fortune of the father, the Italian immigrant Nicolau Scarpa, who created the black beer Caracu, product great success released in 1899 (Caracu is the name of a bovine race, with straight and reddish hairs, developed in the time of colonial Brazil).

Francisco came to have forty farms, besides sugar factory, metallurgical industry and cloth factory. In the 50’s, he traveled with his family to Europe on a transatlantic ship and was carrying a cow, which was milked in the cellar whenever the small children asked for the baby bottle. He died in 2013 at the age of 103. “He was born rich, lived rich and died rich,” summed up the family lawyer, Marco Antonio Fanucchi.

The Champion Car
The Alfa Romeo 8C 308 had eight units produced in 1938. It was designed by Gioacchino Colombo under the supervision of Enzo Ferrari, then responsible for Alfa Corse, the company’s racing department. It had an eight-cylinder in-line engine, 2,991 cc (225 hp). The exchange had four gears and the suspensions were independent on all four wheels. This type of car was piloted in Europe and America by Tazio Nuvolari, Luigi Viloresi, Eugene Siena, Clement Biondetti, Carlo Pintacuda, Jean-Pierre Wimille, Oscar Alfredo Galvéz, Louis Durant, Walt Brown, Chet Miller, Johnny Mauro and Raymond Sommer.

Curiously, the first victory of 8C 308 was in Brazil, more precisely in Rio de Janeiro in 1938. As this car Pintacuda won the Grande Prêmio da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro (Grand Prix of the City of Rio de Janeiro) for the second time, repeating the feat of 1937, also in the Circuit of Gávea (the famous “Trampoline of the Devil”). It is worth mentioning that in 1937, Pintacuda ran with an old-fashioned Alfa Romeo 8C 35, but managed to overcome the monstrous Auto Union Type C by Hans Stuck. Over time, 8C 308 became obsolete, and in 1946 Count Francisco Scarpa bought one of the cars built. He ordered that the phrase “Cerveja Caracu” be painted on the vehicle and handed over to the Brazilian pilot Francisco “Chico” Landi Sacco (1907-1989). With Alfa Romeo, Landi won the Prova Quinta da Boa Vista (Circuit of Quinta da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro, RJ)

Chico Landi with the Alfa Romeo on the Gavea of 1947.

Chico Landi with the Alfa Romeo on the Gavea of 1947.

Chico Landi with the Alfa Romeo in 1948. He won race Circuito Quinta da Boa Vista Rio de Janeiro.

In 1947, Landi, with 8C 308, won the VIII GP da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro (VIII GP of the City of Rio de Janeiro), in Gávea, surpassing names like Achille Varzi and Viloresi. Also won in the Circuito do Chapadão (Chapadão Circuit), a test held in the city of Campinas, in the state of São Paulo. It came in second place in two races held at the Autodromo de Interlagos (Interlagos Circut), the II Grande Prêmio da Cidade de São Paulo (II Grand Prix of the City of São Paulo) and the I Circuito Internacional (I International Circuit). The car came to be dubbed “Cash Register” because it was unsurpassed. Despite this, 8C 308 did not do it all alone: much of its success was due to Landi’s expertise.

Casini and Landi

To understand the importance of the driver for Brazilian motorsport, it is enough to mention that, that same year, Landi gained international projection. It disputed the I GP of Bari, Italy, with a Maserati rented of Enrico Platè. The car came from the Netherlands and arrived, on the eve of the race, as several problems. Personally Landi had to eliminate an oil leak, align the steering, clean the carburetor and replace the clutch disc. Discredited, he dropped last. However, to his surprise, he came third, only to be overtaken by Achille Varzi and Consalvo Sanezi.

Back in Brazil, in 1948, with Alfa Romeo, Landi returned to win in Alto da Boa Vista, Gávea and Chapadão. At the Autodromo de Interlagos, he won the Grade Prêmio Cidade de São Paulo (Grand Prix of the City of São Paulo), Prêmio Lavoura (Lavoura Prize) and I Prova Crônica Esportiva Paulista (I Chronic Sport Proof of São Paulo). In that year Landi returned to Italy and, with a Ferrari 166, won the II GP of Bari. This result made the commander Enzo Ferrari establish a long friendship with the Brazilian. It was the first time that Ferrari won a race with a Formula One type car. Landi would again win the same race in 1952.

Alfallac Sports Car
In the early 1950s Francisco Scarpa sold the car to Henrique Casini (1900-1981), from Companhia Industrial de Borrachas Casini (Rio de Janeiro, RJ). A driver of racing cars and industrial, Casini was as rich as famous, being one of the great names of Brazilian motoring. While there were many single-seat races, Casini ran with 8C 308. However, when they began to fail to be performed, the car became a problem, since it had become practically useless. To make matters worse, the Alfa Romeo was devaluing itself. His engine was worn and redoing it was almost impossible. Each day that passed 8C 308 became more obsolete and stood in the garage. In addition to being ruined, it occupied the space that could be used by another vehicle.

Determined to recoup his investment, Casini opted to create a new vehicle from the Alfa-Romeo chassis. He patiently studied all material hitherto published on modern sports cars of the time. Thus, designed a vehicle of own style, very beautiful, whose body was built manually in aluminum, using some common car items. As an example of this we can mention the radiator grille, the headlights and the taillights of the Chevy Bel Air 1955.

The convertible Alfallac, with bicolour paint, had a hard top of wire covered with cloth. The steering wheel was Austin A40, with three spokes made of wire. The wheels were from the 1953 Buick Skylark and used white lane tires. The spigot was Continental type, fixed to the rear of the car. The engine chosen was the Cadillac 1954, V8, modified to achieve 320 cv SAE. The suspension was Alfa Romeo, independent on all four wheels. The gearbox was also from the Italian race car, with four gears and a throttle lever on the floor. Weighing only 900 kg, the Casini convertible, with four-wheel drum brakes (aided by a Bendix hydro-boost), reached up to 210 km / h. He was licensed in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, and received the plates with the numerical combination 11-16-80.

Still in the adjustment phase, the sport was tested at the Interlagos Circuit in São Paulo, SP, in a test of the extinct category “Mecânica Nacional” (“National Mechanics”). Piloted by Jair Melo Viana, the car came in second place in the overall standings. It also broke the track record. After that, the car disappeared. It is known that in the 1970s, Colin Crabe bought several “Brazilian” Ferrari, Maserati, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo and sold them with great profit in Europe. This was probably the destination of the hybrid made by Casini, which went through several owners until sold to an enthusiast from Campinas, SP.

In the late 1990s, at an event held in England, a collector displayed an Alfa Romeo 8C 308 stating that it was the same car Chico Landi won the Gavea 1948. If the fact is true, probably the beautiful sport of Casini left Brazil and was demolished in Europe so that his pieces were used in an almost replica of the Italian car. And, in this way, one of the most interesting sports made in Brazil (and in the world) during the 1950s was lost.